Taylor Swift vs Spotify and Support of Musicians (Independent or Not) Blog Home
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Nov. 25, 2014 02:55 PM  

This whole thing happening of Taylor Swift taking her catalog of music from Spotify in order to support a model that is more conducive to supporting the artists and songwriters got me to thinking. I can definitely applaud her efforts to try and keep making money from the fruits of her creativity/labor and her stand against Spotify and its subscription-based model is a very high profile way to get a problem noticed. Though some in the bologsphere claim other reasons for this spat between music super powers, there is some definite logic behind her argument.

For those that don´t know, subscription-based music services like Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody, Rdio, Beats Music, etc. go on the model of the user listening to a song on their app or website and either listening for free and getting commercials or paying a monthly subscription fee. The companies manage to make money on the process by charging for ads and subscriptions and only paying a small amount to the artist/label for the song play. What the artist gains is very easy accessibility online to listeners that might otherwise not hear their stuff at all. What the artist loses is that the amount paid to them by the subscription-based company is very, very small compared to what they would gain by someone doing a paid download of the same song.

There are arguments on both sides about Taylor Swift´s stand against Spotify (and by proxy, all of the other subscription-based modeled companies) and they all have merit. There are many people that think that the artists are just being greedy and there are those that think the artists are getting ripped off. While I´m on the artist side of things, although on a much, much smaller scale, I tend to agree and disagree with both sides of the fight. I feel that the subscription-based model has its good points and its bad points. True, it pays very little compared to a paid download, but it still pays more than someone just pirating the song. I know, I know. I´m fully aware of the irony in that statement.

Downloading a song or buying an album via mp3 or CD, on the other hand, pays much more to the artist, but requires the listener to continually disseminate the music to the various devices they want to listen on, smart phone, portable mp3 player, radio, cloud, etc. That can be a pain if you´re not into taking the time to do that sort of grunt work.

So Swift is making her stand by sticking it to Spotify and drawing the line in the cyber-sand. She´s also stirred the music industry pot, from what I read, as artists and companies are falling to one side or the other of the pay/play argument. There are some insiders that think that she might be delivering the first punch that takes out the subscription-based model completely. I hope not. I think that the music industry has long had a throttle on how music is played and distributed and they´ve rigged the system since the 50´s to benefit them and not the artist. Just ask TLC. I think that the smaller companies like Spotify have a place in the world as they help get independent music out to the listening audience that previously would have been funneled into the record company grindhouse that shuns the vast majority of musicians and seems to exploit the ones it does bring in. While I´m glad that Taylor Swift is making a stand due to the dialogue it´s creating, I don´t think a battle between herself (and her massive catalog) and Spotify is going to solve anything. It´s just going to make a pissing contest as both sides of the argument vie for public opinion in order to sway everyone´s sweet, sweet dollars. That reeks too much of politics to me.

It seems to me the better way is to appeal to the listeners themselves. Basically it comes down to this. You hear a song on Spotify or Rhapsody or Amazon Prime Music. If you didn´t really care for the song, then no biggie, as you didn´t pay very much (if anything) for the couple of minutes of listening to it, and you move on to the next one. However, if you like the song, maybe you " favorite" that artist as someone you want to listen to more of. Then, if you dig more of their music, you go and buy their music! It doesn´t have to be entire albums or back discographies, it might just be your favorite song of theirs, but you´ll have done something then to support the artist that gave you a moment´s pleasure in an otherwise stressful world. It might seem like you´re double-paying by doing that, but when the various popular cloud-based radio stations you listen to shut down or get bought out or whatever, you will have the music. It might be on your hard drive or on your shelf, but you have it. You can listen to it however you want and don´t have to ask permission or log in to do it.

I know this comes down the whole relying upon human decency thing, but here me out. If someone is the type of person who copies or torrents songs all the time, odds are they´re not paying for a cloud radio subscription. They´re going to keep pirating the songs, regardless of whether or not Spotify and the like still exist. As Apple proved with the iPod and iTunes, though, people are generally willing to pay for their music as long as it´s not difficult for them to do. I think that Spotify and its ilk need to team up with a music download vendor and include easy links for the listener to buy a song or album if they like what they hear. Some of them do it already. Or, and here´s a novel idea, they could team up with independent artists themselves to include links to their sites for purchasing albums or just more info about the artist.

Here´s what it really is about: money. As usual. In Taylor Swift´s world, that´s a big chunka change she´s fighting for. In The Bilge Pumps´ world, let me give you a sample breakdown of what a poor old pirate band sees when you listen to or download a song of ours.

Action Listener Cost Artist Paid
Pirated the song$0$0
YouTube listen$0$0.0002 (that´s 2/100 of a cent)
Spotify song listen$0-$10/month$0.0008 (that´s 8/100 of a cent)
Rdio song listen$0-$14.99/month$0.005 (that´s 1/2 of a cent)
Beats Music song listen$9.99/month$0.02
Google Cloud song listen$9.99/month$0.01
Amazon song download$0.99$0.63
iTunes song download$0.99$0.63
CDBaby song download$0.99$0.90
thebilgepumps.com song download$0.99$0.99
Amazon album download$9.99$5.91
iTunes album download$9.99$6.37
CDBaby album download$9.99$9.00
thebilgepumps.com album download$9.99$9.99

Out of all these, you can imagine which one we prefer, as we would like you to buy from our Pirate Music Box page so we can bring in the most money from the sale (though CDBaby is close) and form a relationship with you and make sure you have the best available product. In fact, our mp3s are 256kbps, which is about double CD quality and more than double the other vendors´ quality of our music and they are fully tagged with album art, song lyrics, and song information. We also include digital booklets with our mp3 albums with all of the album art and liner notes included. Worth the price if you ask me, especially compared to the compressed format of internet radio.

But this is turning into a commercial now, so I´ll get back to the point. I encourage all of you out there, whether or not you´re listening to subscription-based radio, free radio, YouTube, or your friend´s music library, take the time and support your favorite artists by purchasing their music from whatever your favorite store is. Only you can determine if it´s worth the money and effort necessary to get it done, but if you do, you´ll have a better product in the end and will have accomplished what is very hard to do in independent or mainstream music, validate the artists´ work.

Operators are standing by.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.

That's a nice analysis of the whole situation. I recently started using Spotify, and I'm so impressed with how many independent rennie bands have music on Spotify. I'd love to own all of it, but it'll take a long time to afford the thousands of songs I have on my rennie playlist. I'm getting to know many more artists than I otherwise would be able to.

Here's another take - though I own the Bilge Pumps music, it's on my Spotify playlist too, and I'm happy to send the extra $0.0008 your way when I'm streaming rather than playing the more limited play list of music I own.
Posted by Danny Faught on Nov. 25, 2014 05:48 PM

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